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International Journal of Computer Science & Information Technology (IJCSIT) Vol 14, No 3, June 2022
Pawankumar Sharma and Bibhu Dash
Dept. of Computer and Information Systems, University of the Cumberlands, KY, USA
With digitalization at its peak, every online action we take has an environmental impact. There is a
growing concern about the world's ever-increasing carbon emission due to technological advancement.
The vast majority of human actions have been proved harmful to the environment. This effect has been
mostly tied to available carbon emissions. On the other hand, recent findings have raised awareness of
digital carbon emissions. These harmful emissions represent the available CO2 emissions rate resulting
from generic digitization concepts. The advancement of technology has considerably contributed to CO2
emissions. This study paper discusses the total effects of carbon emissions. It also shows the rates of
carbon emissions caused by the tech industry worldwide. The article describes how digital services have
boosted carbon emissions and the number of regions affected by the higher rates. The study focuses on the
relationship between carbon emissions and digitization, remedies to the problem, and an overall analysis
of the global digital carbon footprint.
Digitalization, Digital carbon footprint, CO2 emission, Global warming, NARDL Approach, FD & CO2
emission nexus, Sustainability.
The world is undergoing digital transformation, which is accompanied by the hype of universal
buzzwords such as Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), smart manufacturing, smart banking,
digital twins, and Industry 4.0, which is a phenomenon of our time, lauding the possibilities of a
new technological revolution [1]. However, there is growing concern over the world's everincreasing carbon footprint due to excessive data processing and digitization. CO2 emissions
have been a leading sustainability issue due to their environmental impacts. Carbon emissions
contribute significantly to global warming, and this issue has therefore created a growing
problem in the community today. Global warming, in turn, has been researched to result in more
global impacts, which inconvenience the lives of most people. One of the significant issues
associated with global warming has been the rising sea levels. Reports have indicated that most
islands and beaches will be completely submerged in the next thirty years. This leads to the need
to manage carbon emissions [2]. However, current remedies have been hampered by rising CO2
emissions caused by increased digitization and technological advancement. Most people's lives
have been profoundly impacted as a result of this. The primary purpose of this study is to explain
the effects of CO2 emissions and how digitalization has contributed to these effects.
The atmosphere represents the space that surrounds the entire world. It is described as being the
blanket that covers the whole planet. The gases which protect the earth in the atmosphere are
DOI: 10.5121/ijcsit.2022.14302
International Journal of Computer Science & Information Technology (IJCSIT) Vol 14, No 3, June 2022
regarded as greenhouse gases. The US greenhouse gas emissions overview showcased that CO2
led with a 79% composition, whereas other gases include Nitrous Oxide, methane, and
Fluorinated Gases [3]. Each of these gases has been associated with the rise in global warming
over the last few decades [4]. They have been associated with the action by different countries
and organizations of shifting to less impactful processes. As per the previous BRICS summit, the
long-run estimates reveal a negative and significant effect of digitization on CO2 in Brazil, India,
and China [5].
CO2 emissions are described to result from several human and natural activities. Each of these
activities contributes toward emitting a specific amount of carbon into the atmosphere. Human
activities, however, contribute a much larger volume of gases every year, which was the leading
reason why the US recorded carbon emissions of 79% [2]. This creates an ultimate problem for
the entire nation [6]. The graph displayed below (see Fig 1) shows the sources of carbon
emissions in the US in 2020 [2]. The chart shows how different factors have a significant
contribution towards impacting the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Furthermore, economic
expansion, financial development, and energy consumption all contribute to increasing carbon
dioxide emissions in China and other emerging countries. In light of these findings,
environmental scientists recommend developing-country governments to integrate digitalization
and environmental development programs by increasing spending in research and development
Fig 1.
carbon Dioxide Emissions
Emissions %
Residential &
Source: Factors contributing to CO2 emission [2]
The graph shows the percentage of all emission estimates of greenhouse gases in the US. The
chart shows that transportation has been a leading source of carbon emissions in the US. The
graph, however, showcases that electricity is closely followed by 31%. The slight difference has
been associated with the rise of electricity as a cause of carbon emission. The graph, therefore,
showcases that the overall increase in electricity usage has been associated with the cost to the
environment [7]. The graph perfectly represents how people's electricity usage has skyrocketed
over the past few years. This could be described as being contributed by the available digitization
of the globe over the past few years. The impacts associated with the rise in electricity usage can
be seen in the graph. Based on it being a leading energy source, it indicates that electricity is
estimated to have been the cause of emission for around 24% of US total greenhouse gas
emissions, suggesting that it is a problem.
International Journal of Computer Science & Information Technology (IJCSIT) Vol 14, No 3, June 2022
Digitization can be described as several processes that contribute to making life easier. Some of
the processes associated with digitization include internet communication, cloud computing,
server backup, real-time analytics and visualization, and video entertainment. Each of these
factors contributes toward making people's lives easier and becoming a standard operation for
different individuals every day [8]. Technology has become an effective place where people may
obtain various services which they need in their lives.
The use of the internet accounts for the most significant percentage of carbon emissions. The
increased electricity usage can be showcased by the people who use electricity to access different
online services. Jungblut [9] indicated that the world population has more than half of the people
online. Around four billion people are using the internet today [10], and this was by 2019 when
several changes happened. The above study found that more than a million people enter online
each day. The different online activities have contributed to an increased emission of carbon.
Access to any digital service is becoming expensive every day. The access people obtain to any
digital service requires electricity to be used [11]. The electricity used is from the individual
using the computer and the servers providing this service [8]. The smartphones also consume a
lot of electricity since they require to be charged after the service has been offered [12]. The
communication networks and ISPs also use considerable electricity to provide the different
services available. The internet is primarily a substantial amount of electricity use due to servers
needing to urn 24 hours each day to ensure people access these contents [8]. YouTube servers,
for example, are always required to be active so that people may have access to these videos from
any part of the world at every time [13]. The computers and servers in these organizations are
implemented and required to remain running to ensure that people obtain the services they need.
Digital technologies account for 4% of Greenhouse gases, and their energy consumption
increases by 9% per year [14]. Studies have indicated that some server warehouses contain data
centers that are always very huge, and these warehouses contain data centers of up to 40,000
square meters [14]. The servers within these data centers always remain operational all year
round, resulting in considerable amounts of power being used daily. Therefore, the portion of the
electricity used from servers and data centers is vast. Despite a rise in the use of renewable
electricity, it accounts for a small percentage of electricity being used by data centers. Studies
indicate that around 30% of data centers run on a 24/7 basis. This results in wastage of data
estimated to be approximately 5-10% of their total capacity [14].
A recycling and conversation journal report indicated that an hour of video conferencing emits
around 157 grams of carbon [9]. Therefore, the increased rate of video conferencing across the
globe results in vast amounts of carbon being emitted [11]. The report also indicated that
individuals with weekly conferencing hours of around 15 hours would reduce their carbon
footprint by over 9 kilograms [9]. This rate equals an individual charging a smartphone every
night for three years [15]. Therefore, the carbon footprint resulting from digital concepts is a
growing issue. This is associated with the increased electricity use over the past few years. Thus,
the ever-increasing global changes contribute to increased effects in the atmosphere due to
increased carbon emissions. Digitization affects carbon footprint can be seen effectively by
examining digital services organizations [16]. Simple digital services like video conferencing and
website hosting contribute to an increased impact on the planet. This influence is specially
developed from the size of these organizations [17]. A good example is an organization like
Microsoft. The employees in the company and the services the company offers significantly
impact the planet due to increased carbon emissions.
International Journal of Computer Science & Information Technology (IJCSIT) Vol 14, No 3, June 2022
Several digitization services and developments have majorly contributed to carbon emissions
across the globe. These services and developments have especially impacted the US, increasing
carbon emissions worldwide. The internet generates 1.6 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions
per year [16]. These impacts have all contributed to several changes experienced across the
planet. These changes are associated with increasing developments, and more people appreciate
these technologies [18]. The overall changes related to such changes have contributed to the daily
rising carbon emissions. Below are several digitization concepts that have resulted in an
increased impact on carbon footprint across the globe. Each of the factors described showcases a
development in technology associated with technology usage and increased carbon emission.
Most of the activities described as using electricity are found on the internet. The activities range
from e-payment methods, e-commerce, streaming and entertainment services, and finance
systems, among many others [16]. Each of these factors has been described below as a potential
effect on the available carbon emissions resulting from digital services.
3.1. Search engines
With over 4.66 billion active internet users globally, accounting for over 60% of the global
population, we can make a difference. Search engines have become indispensable in today's
environment, and Google's expanding growth demonstrated edits reliance on search engines. The
company's profits from the ad system have continued to rise, and serving these clients has a more
significant influence on the earth's ecological [16]. People using their electronic gadgets to obtain
these searches have contributed to this. According to Jens Gröger, senior researcher at the koInstitute, the estimated carbon emission from an individual's query is 1.45 grams of CO2 [9].
Assuming that a person conducts 50 search queries per day, approximately 26kg of CO2
emissions per year [9]. According to the study, Google's environmental report described a carbon
footprint of 2.9 million tons of CO2 in 2016 [9]. The 2017 report also told the energy
consumption by the company to stand at 6.2 terawatt-hours (TWh) [9].
3.2. Music and video streaming
Research by The Shift Project found that 80% of data moves through the internet in the form of
images [9]. This means that online videos on different platforms contributed significantly towards
a large portion of the carbon footprint from the internet. The above report indicated that 60% of
the global data transfer was downloaded videos. The images require vast amounts of data, which
requires a considerable amount of electricity to transfer. The development of higher resolution
devices has increased the available data amount on the internet [19]. The Shift Project described
that the average CO2 consumption of streaming online video is over 300 million tons every year
[9]. This was showcased in the measurement included in 2018. The CO2 emission represents the
overall CO2 emission recorded by Spain in the same year [9]. This show cases how music and
video streaming impact the environment tremendously.
Streaming a Netflix video was also described as the power consumption of 0.12-0.24 kWh of
electricity per hour. These figures are estimated since people use different devices and require
different resolutions for the videos they are streaming. The network connection has also been
described as influencing the exact amount of power consumed. This creates a challenge in
determining how Netflix streaming has contributed to the CO2 emissions across the globe [19].
Music streaming has also been described as having a significant effect on the environment
through its greenhouse gas emissions. Jungblut [9] indicated that music streaming resulted in
around 200 to 350 million kilograms of greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere. The
report suggested that streaming services like Spotify and Apple music also contributed to the
effects on the environment. The disposal of CDs and music records also resulted in an
International Journal of Computer Science & Information Technology (IJCSIT) Vol 14, No 3, June 2022
environmental impact. This was especially experienced when the records were burnt, which
pushed even more carbon into the atmosphere.
3.3. Internet usage through mobile Apps
Mobile phones account for a significant portion of total daily electricity consumption due to
mobile phones' wireless network connection. Since buildings, vegetation and weather weaken the
electromagnetic network connections, more power is always included to ensure that the networks
have reached their destination. Jungblut [9] suggests that copper lines and fiber optic cables also
contribute to the power consumption from the need to amplify the signal through electricity. The
power coverage is therefore affected by the distance associated with every individual. This aspect
also affects mobile users' current carbon emissions and power usage [20]. They, however,
contribute significantly to the carbon footprint of digital technology.
3.4. Cloud Computing
The carbon footprint has significantly been associated with the increased use of cloud computing
applications. Cloud computing is among the digitization processes related to an increased rise in
carbon emissions. Cloud computing has become a recently appreciated technology over the past
few years. Jungblut [9] describes it as being a significant power guzzler. By definition, cloud
computing refers to the technology associated with storing data in computers where they can be
accessed remotely from any location [20]. It typically refers to the technology where specific
software and data have been backed up for people to access from any location (Kessel et al.,
2008). A good example of cloud computing technology is how people can access their emails
anywhere. The emails have been backed up over the internet, allowing people from different
locations to access these data.
Although cloud computing has been described as an effective method of saving power and
storage for people, it has also been very power consumptive. Cloud computing requires that
servers are always connected to the internet to ensure that people can access their information.
Cloud computing companies and services have been described to be very lucrative. According to
recent trends, many organizations overuse digitalized services to process Big data and analytics
for data-driven insights [22]. Also, the digitalized trend is at its highest during this COVID-19
pandemic. This aspect, therefore, suggests that more servers always remain plugged in, ensuring
safety has been achieved. Thus, this aspect can increase the carbon footprint associated with
cloud computing. Cloud computing technologies are being appreciated daily. Technology has
been described as an essential part of many organizations. The increased adoption of cloud
computing services can therefore be described as a contributing factor to the rise of cloud
computing. The increased growth associated with cloud computing services creates a larger
digital CO2 footprint across the globe [23].
The servers and users of the cloud computing services can be described as part of the growing
digital footprint associated with cloud computing. Microsoft and Amazon are leading cloud
computing service companies. They have recorded steady growth for the respective cloud
computing applications [23]. Continued growth is another concept indicating the increased
growth within the growth associated with the cloud computing service. The steady development
has significantly impacted CO2 within the nation [24]. The steady increase of users means that
the servers are being used more. This usage, in turn, results in a continued influence across the
community. This rise indicates that more efforts are required since the digital carbon footprint is
developing significantly, which risks the state of the globe in general.
International Journal of Computer Science & Information Technology (IJCSIT) Vol 14, No 3, June 2022
3.5. Blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies
One of the breakthroughs in finance has been the concept of cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency
technology has been described as being the future of finance. Jungblut [9] illustrates that
cryptocurrency is among the leading causes of a rise in the digital carbon footprint.
Cryptocurrencies work by allowing different machines to hold records for all transactions,
making them more secure and reliable [23]. However, ensuring many devices save this data has
created a challenge for the current carbon footprint. The appreciation of more computers
increases power usage across different parts of the universe [25]. More people continue to abuse
the power they have been provided with, which increases the overall risk associated with a high
carbon footprint [26]. The high carbon footprint of cryptocurrency can be seen in the increase of
crypto miners across the globe. Mining has been described as another way people can gain some
profits off crypto. This method has been described as being very power-consuming. Crypto
miners are, therefore, the leading people engaging in digital carbon footprint.
The issue of crypto mining has been abolished in several states. This has been associated with the
high-power consumption and how it affects the power grids of these states. Jungblut [9] described
that a report by the Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index (2018) explained that a single Bitcoin
transaction consumes around 819 kWh. Reports indicate that there are a lot of transactions
associated with bitcoin in a single day. This has also created a significant issue, and hundreds of
cryptocurrencies have developed [27]. Each of these currencies has contributed to an increased
power usage which influences the current global carbon footprint. Therefore, cryptocurrency has
been described as a leading caron emitter regarding the new world order. The development of
other blockchains has contributed to increased power consumption, resulting in more carbon in
the atmosphere.
According to Jungblut [9], a single bitcoin account's amount of energy utilized equals a
refrigerator's total energy consumption for almost eight months. This factor, therefore, showcases
that the issue of digital carbon footprint is more in comparison to the carbon footprint which
people had before the risen digital carbon footprint. The above study [9] also indicated that a
report by the Technical University of Munich determined the entire system of bitcoin procedures
around 22 megatons of carbon dioxide per year. The increased power usage represents a high
amount of carbon emitted to the atmosphere resulting in different impacts on the earth. CO2
emissions have therefore been a leading aspect associated with increased effects on the globe
through cryptocurrency impact. The consequences associated with the digital carbon footprint
have been recorded to be associated with an increased number of global effects. These effects all
promote a continued impact on the planet. The environment continues to experience several
effects through the issue of cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies. Miners have also
contributed significantly to the rise of power usage, making this a leading influence on
environmental development.
A study by Gani [28] found that political stability, the rule of law, and control of corruption are
negatively associated with CO2 emissions. The above analysis showcases that the leading issue
with technology development has been power consumption, which is the ultimate effect of
increased technology development [28]. Technology and data centers have contributed to a
significant rise in power consumption. This power consumption greatly influences the CO2
included in the atmosphere [29]. Therefore, this has been the main factor associated with an
increased carbon footprint from digital technology. The rise of these technologies has all been
described to have particular impacts on the environment due to the available increase in carbon
International Journal of Computer Science & Information Technology (IJCSIT) Vol 14, No 3, June 2022
emissions. The overall increase in carbon emissions is estimated to be primarily contributed by
the rise in data centers by most companies today [30]. Most of the digital methods described
above showcase an increased cause of energy consumption as the cause of CO2 emissions. The
influence of data centers showcases a growing issue that requires an effective solution. Resolving
the power consumption issue across most data centers will reduce their carbon footprint [20].
Finding effective and better methods to cool the server system better will promote the carbon
footprint associated with digital technology.
Although energy consumption is a leading cause of carbon emission for technology companies,
the cooling systems in some data centers have also been recorded to release various chemicals
into the atmosphere [31]. These chemicals contribute to the overall amount of carbon in the
atmosphere. Therefore, the increased number of data centers results in more chemical substances
being subjected to the atmosphere. These substances continue to influence the carbon footprint of
these data centers. Finding effective methods of cooling the data centers would reduce their
carbon emissions. The analysis showcases an increased issue associated with several technologies
and their carbon footprint [32]. Each of these issues requires that an effective solution has been
created to resolve the subject available. Focusing on these issues will promote the necessary
developments globally [33]. It will also limit most of the effects associated with global warming
due to increased carbon emissions. The analysis proves that digital methods create an increasing
impact on the planet which must be resolved. The increased technology production from
practices such as coal electricity production, in turn, increases carbon emissions across the
The move to finding practical solutions which reduce CO2 emissions due to digitalization is an
effective and required area of focus. The effects of carbon emissions affect people's livelihood,
indicating the need for developing a practical solution that avoids these impacts and promotes
people's lives. This solution will significantly reduce the effects associated with carbon emissions
In the past few years, a new empirical study has emerged to investigate the relationship between
digital financial development and CO2 emissions in various nations. Another study looked at
income, financial development, and trade on carbon emissions in the global economy. The
dynamic vector correction model was used; the empirical data demonstrated a favorable
relationship between financial development and carbon release. Furthermore, the Granger
causality test [35] established the unidirectional relationship between continuous expansion in
financial development and carbon release. Below is an association of financial growth (FG) and
CO2 emission using the Nonlinear Auto-Regressive Distributed Lag (NARDL) model.
CO2t=γ0+γ1FGt+γ2EUt+γ+3FD+t+γ−4FD−t+εt ---(1)
Here, CO2 denotes carbon emissions of order one, FG denotes financial growth of order one, EU
denotes energy use of order one, FD is financial development of order one, and γ=
(γ0, γ1, γ2,γ,+3, γ+4) is a vector of unknown long-run factors. The findings (Table 1) of this
model show that the relationship between financial development versus CO2 emissions shows a
positive correlation for developing nations, whereas, for developing countries, it shows a neutral
or negative trend.
International Journal of Computer Science & Information Technology (IJCSIT) Vol 14, No 3, June 2022
Table 1.
FD negatively affects CO2 emissions.
FD positively affects CO2 emissions. It causes CO2 emissions to surge further.
No relationship was found.
FD negatively affects CO2 emissions.
FD has a positive effect on CO2 emissions.
FD has a positive effect on CO2 emission.
FD positively affects CO2 emissions.
FD negatively affects CO2 emissions.
Source: Summary of studies on the financial development vs. CO2 emissions relationship [35].
Attaining global sustainability and greener growth targets is a problem for all countries,
particularly developing ones. As technology has been researched to have a growing effect on
increasing carbon emissions, it has been described as increasing global warming, which has, in
turn, affected more people both in the short and long term. Therefore, the need to explain
effective solutions is associated with the need to ensure people across the globe have been
protected. Finding practical solutions will make people worldwide safer. The government and
related profit and non-profit organizations should implement measures that reduce the carbon
footprint associated with technology [36]. To promote people’s safety and wellbeing, reducing
digitization's CO2 footprint requires that people across the globe work together toward reducing
these numbers.
Recent strategies by some larger organizations have been described to reduce carbon emissions.
Data centers by Google and Amazon have focused on environment-effective methods, ensuring
they have better managed their carbon emissions [37]. The main focus has predominantly been on
the power consumption associated with these data centers has contributed to the level of carbon
emitted by these organizations [25]. Therefore, the focus on these issues has promoted effective
management associated with these data centers, creating a promise of a practical solution
implemented across the globe.
An excellent example of a solution implemented by larger companies is the solution implemented
by Facebook. The company moved part of its data centers to Sweden, reducing the energy used to
cool the systems [38]. Sweden experiences cooler temperatures than the US, making a move
effective in saving a considerable amount of power. The immediate solution that could be
implemented is to ensure that companies focus on powering their digital services through
climate-friendly solar solutions [39]. The move toward solar power has significantly reduced the
carbon footprint by a significant percentage [40]. Reports also indicate that solar energy is
estimated to reduce the world's global carbon footprint by over 20%. Reducing electricity as a
form of carbon emitter across the globe will significantly contribute to more people benefitting
from the required growth [41]. Companies that manage data centers should consider changing
their primary power usage, therefore participating in reducing carbon emissions around the globe.
According to an EY study, the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA) predicts rebound
effects wipe out 10% to 30% of the potential savings from energy-efficient technologies via
International Journal of Computer Science & Information Technology (IJCSIT) Vol 14, No 3, June 2022
innovative digital services [42]. According to the same EY study, 'sustainable digitalization' can
help decarbonization and foster an eco-friendly future by 2030. Individual users are also
encouraged to consider their impact on the globe from their technology usage. The use of a
mobile phone increases the carbon footprint [43]. Therefore, the need to resolve this issue is that
phone charging and usage should be limited only when needed. Focusing on conserving
electricity is the easiest and safest way to manage the digital carbon footprint [44]. People should
strive to focus on these approaches. This will contribute to their carbon footprint. With the rise of
technology, developers and innovators should focus on effectively reducing the digital carbon
footprint. The development of effective devices with consideration to the carbon footprint could
help with saving many lives.
In conclusion, globalization and digitalization have contributed to a spike in the carbon footprint.
The paper highlights some of the technologies that have been associated with a considerable
increase in the carbon footprint. These challenges have all contributed to increasing the carbon
footprint. The world has been affected by the rise in greenhouse gases. The effects of global
warming have begun affecting many people across the globe. Studies indicate that technological
products are expected to increase significantly in the coming years. Technology is a part of this
problem; it creates a growing challenge and issue. Each of the technologies described above
promotes people's lives to become more accessible. Therefore, the solution to the above problem
will be to resolve this issue by finding a solution. The research paper includes several solutions
that could be adopted. Companies that have implemented solutions have showcased a
considerable reduction in their carbon emissions. Relevant organizations and governments should
implement laws and regulations for better solutions to reduce the growing carbon footprint due to
technology. It should be the top priority for preventing global warming and human sustainability.
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Pawankumar Sharma is a Senior Product Manager for Walmart at San Bruno,
California. He is currently on his Ph.D. in Information Technology at the University of
the Cumberlands, Kentucky. Pawankumar Sharma has completed his Master of Science
in Management Information Systems from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in
2015. He also holds another Master of Science in Information Systems Security from the
University of the Cumberlands, Kentucky and graduated in 2020. His research interests
are in the areas of Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Neural Networks, Information
Systems, Big Data Analytics, Intrusion Detection and Prevention.
Bibbu Dash is an Architect-Data and Analytics in a Fortune 100 financial organization
at Madision, WI. He is currently a Ph. D student in Information Technology at the
University of the Cumberlands, Kentucky. Bibhu has completed his Master of
Engineering in Electronics and Communication Engg., and MBA from Illinois State
University, Normal, IL. Bibhu’s research interests are in the areas of AI, Cloud
Computing, Big Data and Blockchain technologies.